Below is a review published in US Catholic (October 2006) by one of my nuns, Margaret Brennan, IHM. Margaret is a good friend of mine, a wonderful theologian, articulate writer and speaker, and a woman of wisdom and insight. Here’s what she has to say in US Catholic about the book Double Crossed:

Double CrossedDouble Crossed
By Kenneth Briggs (Doubleday, 2006)

To “double cross” is to deceive or betray a person one is supposedly helping. But that word doesn’t adequately identify the situation Kenneth Briggs attempts to describe in Double Crossed, which contends that “much of the demise of religious orders at the dawn of the 21st century can be traced to the hierarchy’s refusal to make good on the promise of renewal made by the Vatican 40 years before.”

There is no doubt that many of the council fathers thought that women religious would be slow to enter into the changes in the church after Vatican II. Small wonder then that Vatican officials and many bishops experienced a “double take” at the alacrity, seriousness, and independence with which U.S. women religious internalized and undertook the renewal that inevitably would bring them into conflict with church officials. Their participation in the burgeoning civil rights, feminist, and peace movements, and their endorsement of the right of self-determination and the dignity and contribution of each person met with strong opposition from ecclesiastical authorities, with some notable exceptions.

Briggs’ thesis is well-intentioned but somewhat simplistic in its final analysis. Although he alludes to the painful struggles over the meaning, extent, and theology of renewal as mandated by the council, it is important to note—which he neglects to do—that many of those struggles arose from commitments of the women religious themselves to differing ecclesiologies.

Although religious life has dramatically diminished in size since the beginning of the council, it is good to point out, as Briggs does through the astute reflection of theologian Sandra Schneiders, that “the most miraculous aspect of the dying process was that so many communities remained buoyant even as the roof was falling in upon them. . . . They appeared ready to let the mustard seed take its course.”—Margaret Brennan